There is an interesting battle in the UK where the NLA, which is a company that has been set up to monetise copyright licensing for newspapers, is trying to charge a licence to companies that link to newspaper websites. Recently they appear to have lost confidence, saying invoices for licences will not be issued until the case is heard at the copyright tribunal.

Links are taken for granted on the web, and many people are confused as to why publications would not want linking, as this drives traffic and increases advertising revenue. The Times Online even has the following in it’s terms and conditions:

Illegal and/or unauthorized use of the Services, including … unauthorised framing of or linking to the Website is prohibited.

I’m not sure what would be authorised use, so I won’t link to the Times! The situation has even resulted in the launch of the right2link campaign.

I do have sympathy with the newspapers and other print publications – the world isn’t being kind to them. The idea that a site can include an obtuse clause in their Ts & Cs saying linking isn’t allowed and then sue people who link is, in my view, ridiculous. Unrestricted linking is an inherent part of the way the internet works. There is a chance, however, that the newspapers might take a different approach, preventing aggregators crawling their site with the robots.txt file, which has already happened to one aggregator, NewsNow.

Hopefully the situation will be resolved, links will be OK and all will be right with the internet. But what if links were deemed to be copyright in the UK, and you needed to get permission to create a link? Perhaps then Google would decide to stop linking to any UK site whilst the situation was sorted out. Although this move would be an effective way of getting the problem resolved quickly, I can’t imagine many UK publishers, particularly in electronics, would be happy to see their traffic from Google and the revenue associated with it disappear overnight!